Survey of III John

What was said of the author in the web page for II John could be said again about him in this summary of III John: Most scholars believe that the author of III John was the author of I John, II John, the Gospel of John, and the Revelation. This would be "the disciple whom Jesus loved . . ."(John 21: 20, 24). His writings have an ethereal quality to them compared to the factual reporting of most of the other New Testament writers. John writes on a very spiritual plane and shows himself to be a very deep thinker. He writes to motives and emotions, speaking directly to the heart. John refers to himself in this letter as "the elder" and to the church in general as "the elect lady," a concept consonant with the depiction of the church as the bride of Christ in Ephesians 5: 22 ff (verses following). Along with Peter, he was an apostle (Matthew 10: 1-4) who was also an elder (II John 1) and was a preacher of righteousness, standing with Peter and the others on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2: 14 ff) and preaching Jesus Christ in the face of adversity and persecution by the Sanhedrin (Acts 3 and 4). By this time, John is certainly an very old man, particularly for the times in which lifespans typically did not exceed fifty years. The letter is believed to have been written in the A. D. 90s, possibly 96, and from the isle of Patmos, on which John had been exiled (Revelation 1: 9). He likely was last remaining living apostle by the time he wrote these letters.

John introduces himself again as the elder rather than repeating his introduction as an apostle (Matthew 10: 1-4; Acts 1: 13). His readers evidently knew of his authority as an apostle and it was un-necessary to remind them of it. The letter is written to a beloved brother, Gaius, about whom we otherwise know little. The issue had to do with division in the church.

The division that mattered--and still matters--is not a geographical division. There is no command to attend the congregation of the Church that is nearest one's house. There is no command to attend and only attend the congregation in which one was baptized. The real division issue occurs when matters of the faith are what is being divided. Paul told Titus to mark those who caused doctrinal division and have nothing to do with them after admonishing them once or twice (Titus 3: 10-11). And in this short book, John condemns Diotrephes who wanted to have pre-imminence in the church, refusing to welcome legitimate members of the church. It is typical of the Diotrepheses in the church that they accuse others of not being genuine or of being the source of division when really they are the ones doing it.

John hoped to come to clear up this problem. It is unlikely that he was ever able to, but that he lived out the short remainder of his life in exile on Patmos. We know though that "All things work together for good for those who love the Lord, and are called according to His purpose" (Romans 8: 28) and that the matter was resolved somehow.

We hope that by visiting this website, you have been blessed.

Sid Womack, webmaster